5110. Completing the Home Study

Original Date: September 2015

Revised Date: February 1, 2020

Sunset Review Date: February 29, 2024

Approved by: Luba Bezborodnikova, Assistant Secretary of Licensing


Purpose

Children placed in out-of-home care are particularly vulnerable and have a special need for placement in a safe, stable and nurturing environment. Assessing the applicant’s ability to provide a safe and healthy environment for every child is critical to a child’s well-being.

Scope

This policy applies to Licensing Division (LD) foster care licensors and home study writers.

Laws

RCW 26.33.180 Preplacement report required before placement with adoptive parent, exception

RCW 26.33.190 Placement report, requirements, fees

RCW 43.20A.205 Denial, suspension, revocation, or modification of license

RCW 74.13 Child Welfare Services Chapter 

RCW 74.14A.020 Services for emotionally disturbed and mentally ill children, potentially dependent children, and families in conflict

RCW 74.15 Care of children, expectant mothers, persons with developmental disabilities

Policy

  1. The home study process must be initiated on any individual who wants to care for children placed out-of-home. LD may decline a home study application if a child is not placed in the home and there are identified safety concerns or child welfare employees are not seeking placement with the applicant.
  2. Home studies are required regardless of whether the applicant intends to be foster care licensed or an unlicensed caregiver.
  3. Home studies are not required for youth participating in the Extended Foster Care Program.
  4. The home study referral must be made within 30 calendar days of the start of the placement per the Placements with Unlicensed Relative or Suitable Persons policy.
  5. The home study must include an assessment of the competence and suitability of the applicants as well as the physical setting of the placement.
  6. LD workers must:
    1. Interact with the applicant in a manner that is culturally responsive and solution-based.
    2. Discuss cultural awareness and humility with the foster parents to educate them on the importance of meeting the child’s cultural needs including, but not limited to: religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.
    3. Assess the applicant’s ability to care for children in out-of-home care by reviewing or completing the following:
      1. Application packet
      2. Background Authorization DCYF 09-653 form
      3. Administrative Review Unit’s collateral information for crimes and/or negative actions, if applicable.
      4. Condition of the home
      5. Applicant interviews
      6. Applicant’s children’s interviews (including adult children and other children residing in the home)
      7. Other collateral contacts, as applicable
    4. Contact or document at least two attempts to make contact with all adult children.
    5. Obtain at least three references that have known all of the applicants for at least two years. The references must include two non-related individuals and one relative as defined in Emergency Planning for Licensed and Unlicensed Caregivers policy.
    6. Complete a minimum of three in-person contacts with the applicants, and at least two of the contacts must be in the applicant’s home.
    7. Complete interviews in the family home with all household members, including children.
      1. If there are two or more applicants, a joint interview is required and at least one separate individual interview for each applicant and household member.  
      2. The interviews and assessment of the home and family may be discontinued once the determination has been made to deny the home study.
    8. Verify caregivers and their household members meet the immunization requirements or have an approved medical exemption.
  7. LD workers and supervisors must meet or exceed the requirements on the LD Performance Goals.
  8. Adoption Home Study Updates
    1. Adoption home study updates are required when:
      1. There are changes within the family, e.g. divorce, someone new moves in the home, a medical condition or significant change affecting the caregiver’s ability to care for children.
      2. The needs or characteristics of a child considered for adoption is significantly different than when the family was assessed in a previously approved home study.
      3. Families have previously adopted a child and are adopting another child that is outside the recommendations on the previous home study.
      4. The local court requires an update.
    2. Adoption Area Administrators may request an adoption home study update by contacting LD Area Administrators (AA).
    3. LD AAs must:
      1. Review the request.
      2. Determine if an update is needed.
  9. License and Home Study Approvals, Denials, and Withdrawals
    1. All home studies and adoption home study updates must be approved, denied, or withdrawn in writing.
    2. Denied foster home licensing applicants have a due process right to an administrative hearing to challenge the denial of a license.
    3. Denied or declined unlicensed, suitable other, or adoption only home study applicants do not have an appeal process or a due process right to an administrative hearing to challenge the outcome of the home study.

Procedures

  1. New Home Study
    LD workers must:
    1. Review the completed Family Home Study Application DCYF 10-354, supporting documentation and forms to confirm all information is complete.
    2. Launch the home study icon in FamLink when LD receives an application and background authorization forms for all household members age 16 and older.
    3. Complete background checks on individuals age 16 and older, including those living on the premises, and other requirements in the Background Checks policy.
    4. Notify the applicant by phone, email, or mail the Incomplete Application DCYF 15-433 form for a full license or the Provisional Expedited Incomplete Application DCYF 15-433A form for an expedited license within one week of application receipt. Indicate whether their application is complete or if more documentation is needed.
    5. Follow-up with the applicant a minimum of every 30 calendar days if there are outstanding application materials.
    6. Inform relatives not seeking licensure that they cannot be eligible for foster care reimbursements unless they become licensed foster parents, but that alternatively they can apply for child-only Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
    7. Obtain a copy of any previous home studies if completed outside of DCYF. LD workers must obtain a signed release of information and request a copy from the agency or person who completed that home study. If unable to obtain the previous home study, LD workers must document their efforts to do so.
    8. Contact the caseworker regarding any barriers in completing the home study for families referred by child welfare for a home study.
    9. Review the completed Personal Information DCYF 15-276 form to assist in formulating questions for the interviews. 
    10. Conduct applicant and household member interviews.
    11. Verify:
      1. Unlicensed providers caring for children under two years of age and their household members, have documentation of current pertussis vaccinations.
      2. Licensed providers caring for medically fragile children or children under two years of age and their household members, have documentation of current pertussis and the annual influenza vaccinations.
    12. Complete the following when medical exemptions have been requested from unlicensed providers for pertussis vaccinations or licensed providers for pertussis or influenza vaccinations, LD workers must:
      1. Notify providers that exceptions to the immunization requirements may only be granted if an immunization is contrary to an individual’s health.
      2. Provide the Applicant and Household Member Vaccination Certification DCYF 10-565 form to caregivers to give to their licensed health care providers to complete.
      3. Document receipt of completed forms in a provider note.
      4. Retain copies in provider files.
    13. Verify licensed providers have submitted vaccination documentation for all household member’s children living in their foster home, not including children in out-of-home placement. The documentation must show the children meet the Recommended Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedule (RCAIS). If foster parents request medical exemptions to children’s immunizations required by the RCAIS, LD workers must:
      1. Notify foster parents that exceptions to the immunization requirements may only be granted if an immunization is contrary to the child’s health.
      2. Provide the Household Children Vaccination DCYF 15-455 form to foster parents to give to the children’s licensed health care providers to complete.
      3. Document receipt of completed forms in a provider note.
      4. Retain copies in the licensing file.
    14. Complete the Family Home Study DCYF 10-043 form.
    15. Review the Reference Questionnaire DCYF 15-286 form for at least three people designated by the applicant.
      1. Two references must be unrelated, and one must be related to the applicant.
      2. If an adult child is one of the three references, that adult child must complete the Adult Child Reference Questionnaire DCYF 15-286A form.
    16. Complete and document in FamLink the Verification of Indian Status: Foster Care and Adoptive Applicant DCYF 15-128 form, if an applicant is Native American and provides tribal verification. 
    17. Review the Applicant Medical Report-Confidential DCYF 13-001 form and verify the applicants have completed a physical exam with a licensed health care provider within 12 months of LD receiving the application.
    18. Complete the Foster Home Inspection Checklist DCYF 10-183 form for all applicants requesting licensure. If the relative or suitable other or adoptive applicant is not seeking licensure, complete Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DCYF 10-453 form.
    19. Complete the Safety and Supervision Plan for Site Specific Conditions DCYF 10-419 form if any child safety hazards are identified in the home of an applicant. If fire safety hazards are identified and cannot be remedied by the applicant, require the applicant to:
      1. Complete a fire safety inspection by the local fire department. Fire safety inspections are completed at the applicant’s expense. In rare situations, the department may elect to pay for a fire safety inspection for a relative or suitable other.
      2. Provide documentation to the department.
    20. Staff with LD supervisor if any parenting concerns or barriers to the home study are identified or if the applicant is being required to provide additional information or complete evaluations.
    21. Request and obtain additional information from the applicant or refer them for an evaluation if concerns are identified in the personal statements, interviews, or any other time during the home study process. Evaluations must be completed at the applicant’s expense. In rare situations, the department may elect to pay for an evaluation for a relative or suitable person.
      1. Obtain a release signed by the applicant allowing information sharing before, during, and after the evaluation.
      2. Provide all information to the evaluator before the scheduled evaluation that is related to the worker’s concern and document the evaluation results and recommendations in the home study.                                    
    22. Use the Home Study File Checklist DCYF 10-182 form for licensed homes or the Unlicensed File Checklist DCYF 10-182A form for unlicensed homes to confirm home study requirements are met.
    23. Submit approval to the LD supervisor in FamLink.
  2. Adoption Home Study Update
    LD workers must:
    1. Complete a minimum of one in-person contact with the applicant at their home.
    2. Complete background checks on individuals age 16 and older, including those living on the premise, and other requirements in the Background Checks policy.
    3. Conduct interviews with minor and adult children and any other household members.
    4. Complete new references or a follow-up call discussing the applicant’s ability to parent with the references identified for the previous home study.
    5. Complete a Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DCYF 10-453 form, whether licensed or unlicensed.
    6. Complete an Emergency Evacuation Plan DCYF 16-204 form unless there have been no changes from the previous plan.
    7. Obtain an Applicant Medical Report-Confidential DCYF 13-001, Financial Worksheet DCYF 14-452, and Marital/Domestic Partnership History DCYF 09-979 forms if the initial home study was not completed as a unified home study.
    8. Complete a Home Study File Checklist DCYF 10-182 form for licensed applicants or Unlicensed File Checklist DCYF 10-182A form for unlicensed applicants.
  3. Upon Approval or Denial of a Licensed or Unlicensed Home Study
    1. LD workers must:
      1. Maintain an original and a copy of the home study in the provider or licensing file.
      2. Provide a second original home study to the adoption worker when requested.
      3. Submit the home study to the supervisor for approval or denial in FamLink.
    2. LD supervisors must approve the home study in FamLink and document the approval or denial in a provider note in FamLink.
    3. When denying licensing applicants see Adverse Action on a Foster Care License policy.
  4. Home Study Denials on Unlicensed Homes
    LD workers must complete the following when considering a home study denial for an applicant who is not seeking licensure:
    1. Use the Shared Decision Making Matrix.
    2. Request a staffing with the caseworker when they referred the family for the home study.
    3. Obtain approval from LD supervisors or LD AAs to deny the home study.
    4. If the denial is approved, send the applicant a copy of their denied home study or denial letter. The denial letter must be approved for use by the LD supervisor. A copy of the denied home study or letter goes in the licensing file and to the referring caseworker.
    5. Document information obtained in the home study icon in FamLink.
    6. Document information about the denial in the home study recommendations section.
    7. Submit home study for approval in FamLink and the supervisor must enter a provider note stating that the home study was denied with a description of the basis for the denial.

Forms

Applicant and Household Member Vaccination Certification DCYF 10-565

Applicant Medical Report-Confidential DCYF 13-001

Background Check Authorization DCYF 09-653

Family Home Study DCYF 10-043

Financial Worksheet DCYF 14-452

Foster Home Inspection Checklist DCYF 10-183

Home Study File Checklist DCYF 10-182

Household Children Vaccination DCYF 15-455

 

Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DCYF 10-453

Incomplete Application DCYF 15-433

Marital/Domestic Partnership History DCYF 09-979

Personal Information DCYF 15-276

Provisional Expedited Incomplete Application DCYF 15-433A

Reference Questionnaire DCYF 15-286

Safety and Supervision Plan for Site Specific Conditions DCYF 10-419

Unlicensed File Checklist DCYF 10-182A

Verification of Indian Status: Foster Care and Adoptive Applicant DCYF 15-128

Resources

Performance Goals (located on the DCYF intranet under LD Programs)

Recommended Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedule (RCAIS)

Shared Decision Making Policy Matrix (located on the DCYF intranet under Practices and Procedures, Appendix C)